Former Citadel head coach Brent Thompson joins staff at ECU

Brent Thompson and The Citadel begin preseason practice (The Citadel Athletics)
Brent Thompson and The Citadel begin preseason practice (The Citadel Athletics)
Published: Jul. 13, 2023 at 8:50 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Brent Thompson has been named recruiting operations coordinator at East Carolina University according to an announcement from head football coach Mike Houston on Tuesday.

Thompson, who will assume his role immediately, comes to ECU after spending the last nine years at The Citadel with the final seven serving as the Bulldogs’ head coach (2016-22). A veteran with over 25 years of coaching experience, Thompson guided The Citadel to a 36-44 overall record and won the program’s second ever Southern Conference Championship in his first season (2016) with a perfect 8-0 league record.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Brent to our staff here at East Carolina,” Houston said. “With 25 years of coaching experience including time as a head coach, offensive coordinator and as a recruiting coordinator, Brent brings a wealth of knowledge that will continue to move our program in the right direction.”

Under Thompson’s guidance, the Bulldogs have ranked in the top 10 in rushing offense in four of the last six seasons. The Citadel ranked sixth nationally in 2019 at 268.2 yards per game, ninth in 2018 at 283.6 yards per game, second in 2017 at 294.6 yards per game and led the nation in 2016 at 348.2 rushing yards per game.

The 2019 season saw the Bulldogs overcome some early adversity to pull off the biggest win in the FCS. The Citadel went on the road in late September and knocked off Georgia Tech, 27-24, in overtime. It was the Bulldogs’ first win over an ACC opponent and the only victory by an FCS team over a Power 5 team that year.

The Bulldog offense was not one dimensional as it also threw for 1,195 yards and 14 touchdowns, the most in both categories since the 2009 season. The catalyst of the attack was quarterback Brandon Rainey who became just the second quarterback in school history to rush and throw for at least 10 touchdowns in the same season.

In 2018, The Bulldogs closed out one of the most impressive four-game stretches in program history. The Citadel outscored its three FCS opponents 123-65, including 69-3 in the second half of those games. The lone loss during that stretch was on the road at Alabama when the Bulldogs shocked the college football world by being tied, 10-10, with the Crimson Tide at the half.

Thompson took over as the Bulldogs’ head coach prior to the 2016 after serving as the offensive coordinator the previous two seasons. In his first season as head coach, Thompson guided The Citadel to 10-2 record, a conference championship and was named the SoCon Coach of the Year.

He produced three All-Americans, two Academic All-Americans, the Southern Conference Defensive Player of the Year, the Southern Conference Jacobs Blocking Award winner and 11 All-Southern Conference Performers in 2016. In addition, The Citadel claimed eight SoCon player of the week accolades, one SoCon Student-Athlete of the Week and one conference player of the month.

The Bulldogs led the FCS in rushing yards per game at 348.2 yards per game, the second-highest single-season total in school history. It was the third time, and first since 1994, that The Citadel led the country in rushing. The Bulldogs also led the FCS with a nation-low 3.3 tackles-for-loss allowed per game. Additionally, The Citadel ranked in the top-10 in the FCS in 12 different team categories.

Thompson’s approach to developing a complete team was on display in his first season in charge. The Bulldogs ranked seventh in FCS in pass defense, led by SoCon interception champion Dee Delaney, and eighth in the country in total defense, improving by more than 50 yards from the previous season to allow only 302.7 yards per game. The Citadel also ranked first in the Southern Conference with only 30 touchdowns allowed in 12 games, an average of 2.5 per game.

Special teams played a crucial role in The Citadel’s success with a dangerous return game, led by SoCon punt return champion DeAndre Schoultz, clutch kicking and one of the best coverage units in the conference.

The Bulldogs faced a tall task in Thompson’s second season as The Citadel boasted one of the nation’s youngest offensive lines. The group helped pave the way for the nation’s second-best rushing attack, including rushing for over 400 yards in back-to-back wins over Chattanooga and VMI.

The 2017 team also featured a defense that led the SoCon in total defense and rushing defense and was among the league leaders in scoring defense until the season’s final week.

Eight Bulldogs earned All-SoCon honors during the 2017 season, including first team honorees center Tyler Davis and safeties Kailik Williams, and Aron Spann III. Davis would be named All-American by College Sports Madness after playing all but four snaps at center for the Bulldogs.

Thompson took over as the head coach after serving the previous two seasons as offensive coordinator.

In 2015, The Citadel earned a co-Southern Conference championship behind a then school record-tying six SoCon wins and finished 9-4 overall after advancing to the second round of the NCAA FCS Playoffs for only the second time in school history. The Bulldogs, who finished the season with a conference-best +117 scoring margin that included a +100 margin in SoCon play, earned the program’s first road playoff win with a 41-38 victory at Coastal Carolina in the first round of the playoffs.

In The Citadel’s 23-22 win at South Carolina, B-Back Tyler Renew piled up a career-high 174 rushing yards, the most allowed at home by South Carolina since 2006 when Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist Darren McFadden rushed for 219 yards. Renew’s total was higher than five teams’ rushing totals against the Gamecocks in 2015. The next week, at Coastal Carolina, the Bulldogs broke a school record with four 100-yard rushers and piled up 524 rushing yards, the most in an NCAA Playoff game since 2012 and the second-highest single-game rushing total in FCS in 2015 behind The Citadel’s 535 yards in the season opener.

Renew and offensive lineman Sam Frye were named All-Americans, and Frye and fellow offensive lineman Kyle Weaver earned All-Southern Conference honors. In addition, offensive lineman Tyler Davis and B-Back Evan McField earned spots on the All-Southern Conference Freshman Team.

As a team, the Bulldogs broke school records for all-purpose yards, total offense yards and rushing yards. The Citadel led the Southern Conference and ranked second in FCS with an average of 346.9 rushing yards per game, an average of 17.21 yards per completion and allowing 0.62 sacks per game. The Bulldogs also led the SoCon with 5.70 yards per rush and 41 rushing touchdowns.

Quarterback Dominique Allen led the Southern Conference and tied for 17th in FCS, second among quarterbacks, with 13 rushing touchdowns. Allen also ranked third in the SoCon in points responsibility with 104, fifth with 953 rushing yards, seventh with an average of 140.3 yards of total offense per game and eighth with an average of 6.0 points scored per game.

In his first year at The Citadel, Thompson was instrumental in the development of Aaron Miller as the senior ranked second in the Southern Conference with 1,080 rushing yards, the highest total by a Bulldog since 1998, and finished the regular season 31st in the nation and second among quarterbacks. The B-back combination of Renew and Isiaha Smith rushed for 1,352 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Thompson went to Charleston after coordinating the offense at Lenoir-Rhyne from 2010-13. Operating out of the triple option offense, Thompson’s attack was tops in rushing in Division II in 2013, averaging 370.9 yards per game, and set the NCAA record for all divisions in rushing yards in a season with 5,563 while advancing to the Division II National Championship Game and racking up a 13-2 overall record.

In 2012 Lenoir-Rhyne compiled 4,515 yards on the ground and finished second in the nation in rushing at 376.2 per game. The Bears also had their highest output of total offense in a season (430.6 ypg) since 1994 and averaged 35.2 points per game.

In 2011, Thompson guided Lenoir-Rhyne to nearly 400 yards of offense per game (397.0 ypg) while the squad averaged 33.6 points per outing. The Bears also ranked third in the nation in rushing (287.1 ypg) and quarterback Major Herron was named to the all-league first team. In his first season at L-R, Thompson headed up a Bear attack in 2010 that averaged more than 400 yards of total offense for the first time in 18 years and led Division II in rushing at 319.5 yards per game.

Thompson went to Lenoir-Rhyne after serving as an assistant coach at Bucknell for seven seasons. In 2009, Thompson served as the Bison’s offensive coordinator in addition to his duties as recruiting coordinator and offensive line coach. Thompson started his tenure at the Lewisburg, Pa., school as the wide receivers coach in 2003. As quarterbacks and fullbacks coach in 2004, Thompson mentored quarterback Daris Wilson to first-team All-Patriot League honors.

Prior to Bucknell, Thompson coached the 2001 and 2002 seasons at Northeastern where he oversaw the running backs and was the team’s video coordinator. In 2002, Thompson helped lead the Huskies to the Atlantic 10 championship. Thompson coached All-American L.J. McKanas, who broke the school’s career rushing record and was second in the nation in that category in 2001.

Thompson, a 1998 graduate of Norwich with a degree in peace, war and diplomacy, was a two-year letterman as a defensive back on the football squad. He began his coaching career at Dickinson in the fall of 1998 as a graduate assistant and worked with the outside linebackers before serving as the wide receivers coach at Stony Brook in 2000.

A native of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., Thompson is married to the former Tiffany Lebengood and are the proud parents of twin daughters, Harper and Emma.